Pregnancy is an amazing time of growth and change. In this process, Zinc is an essential nutrient to support both mum and the growing bub. It is integral for proper growth of the foetus, and to promote the immunity. Zinc also helps to form the organs, skeleton, nerves and circulatory system of the growing baby.
A mother’s blood contains around 30% less Zinc during pregnancy, due to the increased demands of this time of life. As much as 78% of women have also got one or more nutrient deficiencies at the beginning of their pregnancy. Low Zinc levels have been linked to premature births, longer labours and spontaneous abortion. Studies also show connections between zinc deficiency and low birth weights and neural tube defects.
The good news is that supplementation has been shown to reduce the incidence of pregnancy-induced hypertension and labour complications. When mothers have adequate Zinc levels, their children also have higher lean tissue (muscle) mass and better growth during their early years.
Whilst all pregnancy multivitamins contain Zinc, common brands may not contain high enough amounts, or may have the mineral in a form that is very hard to digest. In addition, the high doses of folate that many women are recommended can also interfere with the absorption of Zinc. For these reasons it is important to have your Zinc levels monitored throughout a pregnancy, and to take specially formulated practitioner brand multivitamin and potentially additional supplements.
It is also crucial to eat a healthy diet, and you can gain lots of Zinc in foods such as: oysters, beetroot, broccoli, wheat germ, fish (limit to 340g per week), lentils, watercress, garlic, ginger and parsley. Pumpkin seeds (pepitas) are also a wonderful source.
Zinc is just one of the nutrients that are important for a healthy pregnancy and birth. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be taking a closer look at some of the others, so check back regularly if you’re interested. Also feel free to pop in for a pregnancy check-up if you feel that you may be lacking in something, or would just like to stay happy and healthy.
Hudson, T 2008, Womens Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, McGraw Hill, New York.
Mahomed K, Bhutta ZA, Middleton P. 2007, Zinc supplementation for improving pregnancy and infant outcome. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, Issue 2. Art. No.: CD000230. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD000230.pub3